Ever since receiving the Teaches of Peaches more than 15 years ago, the landscape of pop has been irrevocably changed, and irreversibly genderfucked. Gyrating in pink Y-fronts and a dark pubic wig in the video for Set It Off and extolling the benefits of casual sex in Fuck The Pain Away, Merrill 'Peaches' Nisker broke the mould of what a female musician could look like, of what her lyrics could say and of what her videos could portray.
Peaches' most recent album Rub shows that the Canadian musician hasn't mellowed or been anaesthetised by the trappings of fame, but instead that she has gathered an army of fellow warriors along the way, from Kim Gordon, who appears in the lucha libre wrestler-themed video for Close Up, to Margaret Cho, who dons a knitted nude suit in the riotous Dick In The Air clip.
Perhaps only Peaches could accidentally select twelve female-identifying DJs from the hordes of male producers who regularly crowd them out of gigs and festival line ups, to remix her album. Planningtorock, Maya Jane Coles (as Nocturnal Sunshine), Evvol, Maya Postepski, Paula Temple, Kim Anh, #Entertainment, Simonne Jones, Neven, Ziúr and Lauren Flax each took on tracks from the album, as well as JD Samson of Le Tigre and MEN fame, whose reworking of the Feist-featuring I Mean Something i-D premiere exclusively, below.
In anticipation of Rub Remixed, released on 27 May, i-D caught up with Peaches about her favourite female producers, her inspirations and dream collaborators, the celebration non-binary sexuality and censorship, and the Nicki Minaj song she wishes she wrote...
How did the idea come about to make a remix album for Rub?
It was mostly because I just wanted to hear producers that I like remix the songs that I'm really proud of. It turned out that all the people I asked are women, and I was really excited about that too, because there's a huge gap between male producers and female producers, and I wanted to highlight that.
How did you select the producers?
Planningtorock is a good friend of mine. I always like her remixes and this one has just come completely out to left field -- you would never think that she would make this, quite different, remix. #entertainment is an old friend from a band called StinkMitt. We always made a joke about the Dick In The Air song -- the "Balls and dick / Two balls and one dick" -- so she thought, what if you did it for a guy? And then also my niece, Simonne Jones, who's about to blow up with her own great album, I wanted her to do one and I love her remix -- she did Sick In The Head.
The only one I don't know personally is Maya Jane Coles, but I was a fan of her work, so I wanted to; and then it turned out she also was a fan, so that's a nice way to make a connection between people, when you don't know each other but you both are into it. 'Cause none of this is about... nobody's making any big money or anything, you know? I just wanted to hear how people were going to surprise me!
Obviously it's quite rare to see that many women on a remix album, or on a festival line up.
Oh yeah, festival line ups are ridiculous!
Do you think it's important to show people that it can be done, that there are enough women?
Yeah, of course there are!
You've collaborated with a lot of people on videos too. Margaret Cho was a funny one, in the video for Dick In The Air. Is there anyone who you'd like to collaborate with that you haven't yet?
I'd love to work with Tina Fey or Amy Schumer. I love female comedians, they're political and they're funny. It could be a good collaboration. I also wanted to make a video with Cindy Sherman, and we talked about it, but she's doing a lot of retrospectives this year..!
With Margaret, we became friends and then I played her the album and she picked a song and it just kind of organically happened. That was just perfect, those outfits were found -- so stereotypical, for the white person, and the Asian person -- it just seemed to work out. I'm not really into setting things up that aren't going to happen; it's more like if they're in reach.
Do you think comedy is the best way to give a political message?
You know what, I would have said that probably three months ago, but now I've seen how comical someone like Donald Trump is and it's actually helping him gain popularity, because he's so ridiculous, but that's a different kind of funny. I feel that a political message can go down a lot easier, and people will feel less threatened if you let people smile with it, and let them know it's not terrifying.
People have said that this album is more personal than political, and that seems really clear on Free Drink Ticket and Dumb Fuck, but a lot of the other songs speak to more broad issues.
I didn't say [it's not political]. People say that, and yes, it's because of the Free Drink Ticket and the Dumb Fuck song, but I don't. I wish it wasn't political, I wish it wasn't transgressive, but it still is.
A lot of the people in the video for Rub, their bodies aren't often fetishised in mainstream music videos. It seems really political, but as you said earlier, it shouldn't be.
Actually there is one who has been fetishised in videos, Malice -- she's the one on the stripper pole, she brought her own pole -- and I see her in a lot of crap videos too, I don't like the way they portray her. And then there's someone like Danni Daniels, who's a transgender woman, the one who's dick slapping me in the face, who does porn -- I wanted to represent her in a different way, that's more graceful. A lot of the other girls work in porn, and I wanna show them as they are. I made one rule for the video -- nobody is allowed to kiss.
Why were they not allowed to kiss?
Because it was women, and that's kind of a symbol for like, [puts on a jock voice] "She's a freak, man, she's doing it for me" (for the guy), you know, that's kind of like a symbol now in music videos -- I see it all the time: the girl gets drunk, and [jock voice] "She makes out with her friend before we have sex, heh heh heh," you know? So, I don't think anybody even noticed that, and I love how people call it porn, 'cause there's nothing! Yes, there's a microphone that comes out of a pussy, but I don't think that constitutes porn. There's no in and out.
On YouTube, under the videos people have said, 'This is pornography'.
Yeah, I'm like 'Wow, really? Why?' -- there's no sex going on in there! Just because you're showing bodies, that doesn't make it pornography. Why does showing bodies make it pornography?
Particularly bodies that people aren't used to seeing.
So that freaks them out a little bit. There's also a lot of good comments on the youtube. You know, there was on the good YouTube page that they took down! Which had, you know, 'Oh my god, this is so great, to have all kinds of women,' etcetera.
Were you given a reason for why it was taken down?
Yeah, you know why. They thought it was porn or whatever. But you know, they keep lots of other stuff on there. I think it's political. It started with people's Facebook pages getting shut down 'cause they were showing articles that had the Rub video attached to them.
That's incredible censorship.
Yeah, we really see where we're at, when you actually do it. You know what I mean, when you actually take it to where you want it to go and you see that [it gets censored]. And I'm still not allowed on TV, you know, I'm allowed on American television talking, I'm allowed to talk, but they wouldn't let me perform live on any of those late night shows or anything.
With the platform you have, do you see it as a duty to show the talents of other women, or people who you find impressive?
Sure, yeah, that's a privilege I've got to capitalise on. It's not really like a 'Do you,' it's like: I want to, you know. It's not like I have to.
A lot of artists have clearly been influenced by your work, but who influenced you, and your lyrics and style of performance?
I guess a lot of mainstream classic rock and hip hop that was misogynist, and I was like, 'Wait, that's not talking about me or my situation,' so [I took] an adversary position. Basic mainstream and pop culture; I thought: 'I don't understand. Why is this pop culture? Why does this seem so uninclusive?' and then I would find people where I was like, 'Oh my god!,' but it was a lot of local people too, like my modern dance teacher, who was not classically beautiful, with that kind of gracefulness. Understanding that people can just be people, they don't have to [fit a certain mould]. But then I was also fascinated by people like Nina Hagen. Grace Jones was a big one for me too, I loved her when I was like 13.
Grace Jones says in her recent autobiography that she always stayed quite underground because she was too out there, she could never have been huge, and that a lot of people who were inspired by her have taken the look, but not the politics. Is that how you feel too?
Exactly. Well, in the case of Miley Cyrus -- and I don't know if it's her or her people, but if it is then I think they're steering her in the right way -- she's using her money for the homeless and LGBT community. And she's making younger people aware of certain things. I don't know if that's her directly, or if she's like, "I wanna do something good," whatever it is, she's obviously signing off on it. Yeah, she's had some provocative outfits, but I don't really know if the music is like that. I don't know what to say, it's a different experience for people. But then there's someone like Nicki Minaj, who just blows it out of the water. She's just like, 'I'm the best and I don't even have to tell you. I tell you all the time, but I don't have to, because you can just see it. I'm better than any male rapper out there. I'm the shit!'.
Is Nicki Minaj someone you'd say you admire?
I mean, I don't like the pop stuff, but there's some incredible songs, like Did It On Em -- I wish I wrote that song!
A lot of female pop stars are very sexualised, but still there's still a real fear of women's sexuality.
It's ridiculous. And I think men need to be objectifying themselves, they need to assume the position and get into the headspace so they can become feminists, so in the end we can all become humanists. And so they can become comfortable in their own body and men still feeling like there's some sort of privilege or superiority. That way, there's an easy way out for a white male, and they need to struggle and get with the struggle.
Are the lyrics of, say, Dick In The Air, a taste of their own medicine, so to speak?
Yeah, and I think it's fun too. It's like, you're always telling girls to shake their ass or whatever, but yeah, it could be fun, just like, shake it out -- you've got this thing that sticks out like a poppit, have fun. You wanna see girls' titties shake? I wanna see little dicky shake!
Rub Remixed is out 27 May.
Photography Daria Marchik